Stuck Solid II

(Stuck in Reverse)

Who said it couldn't happen twice ?

The Webmaster's personal experience of being Stuck in Gear

24th June 2000: After a five-minute warm-up, we had powered our way directly into a Force 5/6 Westerly wind for 65 minutes. Our little Vire 7 had behaved well, but the idle speed had been set too low at the last tune-up. As we manouvered to come alongside the jetty, I put the engine into reverse without revving up, and it cut out just as the boat came to a dead stop - very convenent, since the crew (aged six and two) had both fallen asleep and I had to tie-up unaided.

The engine was left in reverse overnight. In retrospect, that might have contributed to the problem.

The following morning the engine was stuck firmly in reverse. I thought that there might be a problem with the remote linkage, so I disconnected it and applied pressure directly to the gearlever (Also known as the Coupling Rod - Part Number 14 in Figure 17). No joy. I didn't like to hit it too hard and there wasn't much room to swing a hammer behind the gearlever anyway, so we sailed back to base.

I dipped the oil and found the "milky" appearance classically associated with water in the oil. The reversing gearbox was removed and brought home to be dismantled. But before I could get time to do any more, I did a search of the Internet in anticipation of needing to source parts. Quite by chance, I came across Stuck Solid, the story of William Wood. Armed with that information, I did no further dismantling. Instead, I rested a block of wood against the near end of the cone clutch (Part Number 18 in Figure 18) and struck it once, hard, with a big hammer. Instant resolution !

Time then to find the underlying cause, which wasn't difficult. The shaft seal (Part Number 30 in Figure 18) was in bad shape. So what then was the complete story ?

  1. Like William Wood before me, I hadn't put extra oil into the gearbox to compensate for the tilt of the engine (my 1974 Operator's Manual makes no mention of the need to do this, so I have a good excuse)
  2. The shaft seal (Part Number 30 in Figure 18) between the reduction gearbox and the cooling water pump had leaked, allowing water into the gearbox
  3. The engine had been working hard for over an hour, with the gearbox lubricated only by this oil-and-water emulsion - a notoriously bad lubricant
  4. By the time we stopped, everything in the gearbox was hotter than it ought to have been. Leaving the engine in reverse overnight allowed the cone clutch to bind firmly to the gear shaft.

So what lessons have I learned ?

  1. Use enough oil (0.85 litres, not 0.7 litres), to compensate for the tilt of the engine
  2. Dip the gearbox regularly and take action at the slightest sign of water in the oil
  3. If it gets stuck in gear again, disconnect the linkage and hit the gearlever very hard with a big hammer.

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